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The Foolproof Guide to Hosting a Dinner Party, According to These Event Pros
The Venue Report
byThe Venue Report



So, you want to host a dinner party at your place filled with your nearest and dearest to enjoy good food and drinks together. You'll invite everyone over, make some food and pour some drinks. Sounds simple enough, right? How many people will you invite? How many portions of each dish will you need? How will you set your table? What kind of music will you play? Suddenly, the simple dinner party you were envisioning sounds a lot more complicated. Fret not for we called on Be Inspired PR who knows a thing or two about hosting dinner parties. With the help of Merryl Brown and Cara Clark, we're breaking down how to host a beautiful and enjoyable dinner party of your own. 

From setting a simple timeline to keep you on track to easy day-of recipes to tips and tricks for pulling it all off, read on for the foolproof guide to dinner parties


Photography: Jacob Yackley Films


Merryl Brown, President and Creative Director of Merryl Brown Events says:

The best way to ensure a great dinner party is to be a relaxed host. The best way to be relaxed is to be prepared! Figure out all of the key details of your gathering in advance to ensure a stress-free party. Begin by creating a timeline that maps out your event from concept to completion.


Three-Four Weeks Before Your Party

Invite guests to attend. Think about who will mix well so that you have a wide variety of interesting people. Paperless Post is an easy way to invite guests and track responses, as well as follow up with any details like parking or food preferences.


Two Weeks Before Your Party

Plan your menu. Think about what you can outsource and what you want to make. I am a big fan of outsourcing most of it, so that I can focus on creating all of the beauty and hosting my guests! If you plan to do some of the cooking, choose items that you can prepare in advance or easily make on event night, so that you are not in the kitchen all evening. Make a shopping list and know where you will source all of your menu ingredients, as well as any other items that you will need for your party. Be sure that you have the correct number of chairs and tabletop items to match your guest count. If you are able to do so, hire one person to handle bussing of empty glasses and dishes all evening long, and to help you with keeping the kitchen clean and organized.


Photography: Corbin Gurkin Photography


One Week Before Your Party

Be sure that you have all tabletop elements clean, pressed, organized and ready including: china, cutlery, stemware for all courses, candles and candleholders, floral elements, napkins, cocktail napkins and linens. Purchase all wine and alcohol, as well as sparkling and still water. Create a playlist to set the mood of your gathering.


One Day Before Your Party

Have your house cleaned top to bottom including outside the front door, place aromatherapy candles in the bathrooms, air out the house so that it is fresh and inviting. Set up your bar with alcohol, mixers, wine, water, sparkling water, cocktail napkins, an ice bucket, cocktail napkins, cork screw and ample glassware. Shop for everything that you need and pre-prep any food that you can. Purchase a bag or two of ice as well. Set the dining table with all tabletop items including candles and leave space for fresh flowers which you can add on event day.


Photography: Isaac Hernandez Photography


Party Day

Finish prepping all food and wash and put away all dishes. Add fresh floral to the dining table and place a flower sprig atop each napkin. Put floral arrangements around your home as well. Put sliced citrus for drinks, juices, and fresh mixers, as well as nuts, wasabi peas and olives for snacking at the bar.

Dim the lights, light candles on the dining table and in the bathrooms, set out hors d’oeuvres and cocktail napkins, turn on the music, and do a final check of your home. Look high, look low and be sure that nothing is out of place. Take a deep breath, grab a drink and remember to enjoy the evening.


Photography: Jose Villa


Cara Clark of Cara Clark Nutrition says:

First, I always like to have some finger food out, so we don't have to rush. The whole point of hosting the dinner is to connect and slowing it down a notch makes for some great connection. This can be anything from a veggie tray and hummus or another dip or something that goes along with the dinner theme. I like to keep it simple and something you can enjoy standing and chatting. 

I love to impress my guests with a colorful array of sides, which is why I love the idea of veggie kabobs, either oven roasted or on the grill. Again, something easy to eat and you can count on them enjoying at least part of it. These go great with anything from a whole roasted chicken or a salmon filet or even something fresh off the grill, like a burger. Check out one of my favorite recipes below!


Photography: Cara Clark Nutrition


Mediterranean Chicken Kabobs

Serves 4-6 

• 4 chicken breasts, diced into 1-inch cubes

• 2 red bell peppers, chopped into 1-inch pieces

• 2 green bell peppers, chopped into 1-inch pieces

• 1 red onion, chopped into 1-inch chunks

For the marinade:

• 1 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

• Juice of 1 large lemon, divided

• 6 clove of garlic, divided

• 2 tsp paprika, divided

• 2 tsp thyme, divided

• 4 tsp oregano, divided

• 2 tsp salt, divided

• 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided

In a small bowl, mix the marinade ingredients together till well combined. Divide between two large gallon size ziplock bags. Add the chicken to one bag and the veggies to the other. Place in the fridge and let marinade for at least 30 minutes or overnight. If you are using wood skewers, soak in water while the chicken & veggies marinade to prevent scorching on the grill. Thread the chicken, peppers, and onions on the skewers, alternating as you go. Depending on the size of your skewers, you should be able to fit about 5-6 chicken pieces and a combo of peppers and onions in between.

Heat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat the grill grates with avocado or coconut oil spray. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side or until the chicken is cooked through to at least 170 degrees and no longer pink in the center. 

Optionally, you can bake in the oven if you prefer. Either broil on high for a similar amount of time as you would cook on the grill, or bake. To bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place chicken skewers on roasting racks placed over two foil-lined baking sheets and bake for about 25-30 minutes, turning halfway through, or until the chicken is fully cooked to an internal temperature of at least 170 degrees. Time Saving Tip: Option to skip the kabob skewers and bake everything in a 13x9 baking dish.

Finally, make sure you serve a fun drink that will still allow a little room for dessert, aka a healthy-ish cocktail option! Here's one of my faves!


Photography: Frank Zhang


Summer Sangria

For a pitcher

• 1 bottle of your favorite pinot noir (or other medium/light bodied red wine)

• 3 ounces top shelf brandy or spiced rum

• 1 can orange or mango LaCroix

• 1 lemon, sliced

• 1 lime, sliced

• 1 orange, sliced

• 4-5 strawberries, sliced

• 1⁄2 small apple, sliced or diced


Also, don’t forget about a simple yet refreshing wine spritzer!

• 1⁄2 glass of your favorite white wine topped off with your choice LaCroix (or other naturally flavored sparking water) + frozen fruit of your choice


Get inspired with more Dinner Parties →

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